CHAMPLIN, Minn. -- Accessibility goes beyond ramps for wheelchairs. One local teenager in Champlin is making sure words like "handicap" and "disabled" are no longer used on parking signs by taking it to the state capitol.
Hope Hoffman is a senior at Champlin Park. She said it all started in a parking lot.
"My local target store had changed all of their accessibility parking spaces to say handicap along with the word disabled, synonymous with incapable, broken down and powerless," said Hope. After a couple of emails with Target and no real result, she realized something must be done.
Hope said she has noticed more and more "handicap" parking spaces popping up, rather than space with "accessible parking" or parking signs with the universal symbol.
It's a topic Hope is passionate about.
"I was born with spina bifida. I wore leg braces to walk. I run my own website, camogirl.com, to support other young women with physical disabilities. I have a passion for changing and doing what's right," said Hope.
With that passion, she turned to her dad John Hoffman who happens to know a thing or two about making changes. He's a state senator, representing Champlin, Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids.
"So I said, okay Hope. Write a bill, think big, think big on the bill," said Sen. Hoffman. "She started coming up with ideas and the more she researched, the more she came up with more ideas and finally it was a huge bill."
Hope said she wrote the original draft of the bill. Her father helped modify it as it came along.
"It helped me kind of see the process of how a bill really becomes law. It's been a good experience," said Hope.
Senate File 1136, which is now known as "Hope's Bill," updates current state laws to 'people first language' which means prohibiting the use of the words "handicap," "disabled," or "disability" on accessibility parking signs. The legislation also would prohibit the language in newly printed or digital media created or maintained by state agencies or private entities directing the public to accessible restrooms and accessible parking. Instead, a variation of the word "accessible" will be substituted. The legislation also says that state agencies must use people first language in order to continue to receive state aid.
"The word handicap references a time in old England when war veterans would come back with disabilities, being denied employment and then they were forced to beg on the street with a cap handy in their hand, handicap," said Hope.
Hope said she and her father are looking into the laws in North Dakota, where parking signs say "reserved parking" and "van accessible." They're hoping Minnesota can follow suit.
Now, Hope's Bill has made it through five senate hearings with support from both sides of the aisle. Now it must go through one more finance committee before it makes it to the house.
Sen. Hoffman said he's proud of his daughter's motivation and accomplishments.
"She saw a problem and she sought solutions to the problem, did her research and put together what I think is a poised bill in actively looking for a solution to the problem and has done a great job of it," he said.
Hope said after she graduates, she is going to Aveda's beauty institute but after that, she wants to go down the path of advocacy or law.
She offers advice to other young people who want to make a difference.
"You just have to have the motivation and the courage to speak up. Writing to a local representative or senator as far as getting something change is a smart move to make. People think you can't? You can, you can make a difference," said Hope.
Sen. Hoffman said Hope's Bill will have zero to minimal cost. If it gets through the final part of senate and the house, it would go into effect as soon as the governor signs the bill.
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